Whats beneath Trumps threat to destroy cultural sites
What the conversation has often missed, however, is why strikes in this vein are such a big deal: The damage inflicted chips away at the very identities and histories of their targets.
More importantly, these signatories were “convinced that damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world.” (The US Defense Department Law of War manual says that “acts of hostility may be directed against cultural property, its immediate surroundings, or appliances in use for its protection when military necessity imperatively requires such acts.”)
Preserving cultural artifacts speaks to a vital kind of world-building. This work can, in its own way, ratify the existence of a variety of people, afford them dignity and help them to recover in the wake of tragedy.
The opposite, then — obliterating such objects — is nothing short of a violent strain of erasure.
The US and the world, in fact, have recognized that cultural destruction has been an aim of terrorist groups including the Taliban, ISIS and al Qaeda.
Efforts of this nature go beyond mere military strategy. They betray the much broader ambition to rewrite history by blowing it apart.
Of course, you don’t have to look abroad to see the significance of protected cultural patrimony. For instance, what are the Smithsonian museums in Washington if not institutions dedicated to elevating the country’s many cultures and at times barbed histories, that its citizens may remember and learn from them?
The President initially tweeted his “WARNING” on Saturday “that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”
But it’d be ill-advised to dismiss the President’s recent behavior too quickly. It’d be better, instead, to put it into context: Trump’s is a presidency that’s been defined by various cultural antagonisms. And this is another example of that.